By Anna Paone
As a Mets fan, it pains me to write this, but you can’t go wrong with anyone on the Braves right now. Ozzie Albies, as most fans know by now, has emerged as a surprise power hitter. The Braves second baseman has 13 home runs, and is on pace with Hank Aaron for the franchise record for extra-base hits in the first 40 games–Albies currently has 28 to Aaron’s 30. He’s also currently tied for the most home runs in the league–13–with five other top players: the Nationals’ pure five-tool player Bryce Harper, the Rangers’ streaky Joey Gallo, the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, and the Orioles’ virtuosic Manny Machado. At only 21, Albies is legally drinking and he’s also one of the most exciting, young players to watch on the diamond for the rest of the season, and hopefully for many years to come (if you’re not one of his NL East rivals). Curse you, Atlanta!
The Braves don’t lack for pitching, either. Twenty-four-year-old Sean Newcomb is 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Mike Foltynewicz has a respectable 2.87 ERA and 57 strikeouts. Forget Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz–we may see a return to the glory days of ‘90s Braves pitching staff. More on top pitchers later.
Going back to home runs, the abundance of them, while great to watch, may kill your daily fantasy games when players swinging for the fences strike out so regularly. A player like Jose Altuve, second baseman for the Houston Astros, might be a nice alternative to these struggling sluggers. He’s batting .311 as of May 16. According to The Ringer, he’s only projected for eight four-baggers over this season (after two through 41), but, in this writer’s opinion, he’ll smack singles forever.
Don’t worry–I didn’t forget about Mike Trout. The Angels center fielder is tearing it up, batting .306 with 12 dingers. MLB’s Statcast has tracked his exit velocity in 2018 at 91.85 mph, an increase from his past years. If you can get him, catch this trout.
Sho-WHO? Initially, I was wary of drafting Shohei Ohtani for my fantasy baseball league, thinking he couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, and I didn’t want to take the risks on games that weren’t daily. But there’s no denying he’s a classic baseball type (inasmuch as a DH is classic), hitting and pitching with aplomb. If you can keep tabs on when he’s playing (again, a benefit of everyday matchups), he’s a good choice for daily fantasy games–while he only has 73 ABs, he’s batting .342. His ERA is 3.58, respectable for a pitcher splitting duties. His batting WAR, however, is 0.8, and his pitching WAR is 0.7. Not bad for a rookie changing how baseball is played for the foreseeable future.
That said, there’s no more exciting duo than Trout and Ohtani, which can only help to bring viewers back to the game. I hope the young prospect Hunter Greene, in the Reds organization, can do something similar–and the Reds could use it, although they’re hot now. Scooter Gennett is currently on fire.
Speaking of Western teams, though switching to the NL, the Diamondbacks are slumping hard–you may want to avoid them for a bit. Looks like the snake’s bite has loosened its grip.
As a Michigan grad, I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for a Tigers alum, and two of them are tearing it up right now. Max Scherzer is tops in the National League with seven wins for Washington and a jaw-dropping 91 strikeouts. He’s also tied for second with innings pitched behind his teammate Stephen Strasburg, with 58.2, and has pitched a complete game. Is it just me, or is everyone pitching five now? Except for newly-minted Red Matt Harvey, who only pitches four. Glad the Mets dumped him.
Meanwhile, Scherzer’s old Detroit teammate Justin Verlander is tops in ERA for the AL, with 1.21 for an insane Houston rotation. (I’m lucky enough to have Astro Charlie Morton myself.) Verly’s also got a 0.721 WHIP. They’re not best at everything, though–the Yankees ace Luis Severino, though, is tops in the AL with a 2.5 WAR.
My condolences for anyone who had Robinson Cano. And I recently had to drop Clayton Kershaw, which I never thought I’d have to do. While I have high hopes for the future of many of the players mentioned, to paraphrase “Project Runway,” “In baseball, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.”